TNCS Summer “Move It!” Camp Gets Kids Moving and Learning!

TNCS's new Kindergarten teacher/first-grade teacher also taught the Move It! summer camp

TNCS’s new Kindergarten teacher/first-grade teacher Teresa Jacoby also taught the Move It! summer camp

At The New Century School‘s Move It! camp, campgoers learned all about movement—how their own bodies move as well as some of the physics of how other things move—and they also moved, a lot. This ages 3–K 2-week summer camp emphasizing learning and physical activity through art, music, movement, and play was led by Teresa Jacoby, TNCS’s new for the 2014–2015 academic year Kindergarten/first-grade teacher. Mrs. Jacoby brings a wealth of knowledge, experience, and enthusiasm to the classroom, and TNCS is pleased to welcome her!

A former 3rd- and 4th-grade science teacher in the Baltimore City school system, this “self-proclaimed scientist” gears even her reading and art lessons toward science, and Move It! camp was no different. She designed the camp curriculum herself, and it becomes not just about expending some pent-up summertime energy but also a thoughtful way to incorporate scientific thinking into having fun. “The kids are so naturally curious; it’s nice to discuss [science] with them, and they like to talk about it,” said Mrs. Jacoby.

A typical class discussion starts with something the kids can relate to—their own bodies—and moves progressively outward from there to the world beyond. “We talked a lot about, ‘what is movement?’ and ‘what can we move on our bodies?’. I get the typical legs and arms response and then ask, ‘what about our faces?’ Do we move anything on our faces?’,” she recounts. She invites them to blink their eyes, smile, wiggle their eyebrows, etc. She also talks a good deal about deep, yogic breathing, which has the dual benefit of teaching them how to calm themselves while still continuing the exploration of body movement. “I teach them how to listen to their breath hit the back of their throats and fill into their lungs. They really worked hard to get this right and made a lot of progress,” said Mrs. Jacoby.

As the light starts to dawn and they begin to see that movement really is a continuous, perpetual process fundamental to life, she expands the perspective, and they talk about what we use our bodies to move, such as picking up objects and carrying them from one place to another. “We talk about what’s hard to move and why and what’s easy to move and why,” said Mrs. Jacoby. Next, the line of inquiry widens farther still. “What do we see outside that moves?” she asks. “Cars. Well how do cars move?” This leads into a discussion of wheels and how it’s easier to move something on wheels than to push it. The kids really benefit from this inquiry-based, hands-on approach. They are learning about movement while moving, which reinforces the learning but also makes it applicable and more real. Relevant knowledge is learned more effectively and efficiently.

But hang on—this is summer camp, and fun is supposed to be an integral part of that. Move It! camp cannot be accused of skimping on the fun! With the particular focus on physical activity built in to this camp’s theme, Mrs. Jacoby really gets the kids moving with ample time either in the outdoor playground or on the Gerstung equipment and Imagination Playground located in TNCS’s gym, The Lingo Leap. Campgoers also get “water play day” every Friday, which includes playing with water toys outside and running in the sprinkler. Weather permitting, campgoers might also take neighborhood walks.

At TLL, Mrs. Jacoby sets up obstacle courses with the Gerstung equipment that the kids navigate while carrying balloons, to develop an extra layer of skill. “They do such a great job,” she said, “and it’s delightful to see how hard they work to walk on the balance beam, for example. It’s really fun to watch them practice those gross motor skills.” She also incorporates the parachute into movement time, which she is again able to tie back to physics, with observations about how the parachute behaves differently under different circumstances, such as with fast versus slow movements.

This camper has a lot going on! He walks across the balance beam without falling off, while delicately carrying a balloon between two rackets without popping or dropping it! What skill!

This camper has a lot going on! He walks across the balance beam without falling off, while delicately carrying a balloon between two rackets without popping or dropping it! What skill!

Other fun ways to get them moving include playing badminton with balloons and learning and performing funny songs and dances. Songs like “A Tooty Ta Ta,” a hipper, updated take on the “Hokey Pokey,” get them isolating one movement at a time, then building progressively on each movement until by the end they are wriggling in time to the music with thumbs up, elbows back, knees together, feet apart, bottoms up, and tongues out! (Picture playing Twister to “Gangnam Style,” or similar.) “The kids did a fabulous job getting all that together while singing along and turning in a circle with their eyes closed!” said Mrs. Jacoby. See below for the lyrics to “A Tooty Ta Ta”—your kids will be thrilled to do this with you!

“I really, really enjoyed camp Move It!,” said Mrs. Jacoby. “I got to meet some of the students I’ll have next year, which is so nice. This camp has been a lot of fun.”

Those breathing exercise sure work some relaxing magic!

Those breathing exercise sure work some relaxing magic!

A Tooty Ta Ta

Thumbs up

A tooty-ta, a tooty-ta, a tooty ta-ta!
A tooty-ta, a tooty-ta, a tooty ta-ta!

Thumbs up, Elbows back

A tooty-ta, a tooty-ta, a tooty ta-ta!
A tooty-ta, a tooty-ta, a tooty ta-ta!

Thumbs up, Elbows back, Knees together

A tooty-ta, a tooty-ta, a tooty ta-ta!
A tooty-ta, a tooty-ta, a tooty ta-ta!

Thumbs up, Elbows back, Knees together, Feet apart

A tooty-ta, a tooty-ta, a tooty ta-ta!
A tooty-ta, a tooty-ta, a tooty ta-ta!

Thumbs up, Elbows back, Knees together, Feet apart, Bottoms up

A tooty-ta, a tooty-ta, a tooty ta-ta!
A tooty-ta, a tooty-ta, a tooty ta-ta!

Thumbs up, Elbows back, Knees together, Feet apart, Bottoms up, Head back

A tooty-ta, a tooty-ta, a tooty ta-ta!
A tooty-ta, a tooty-ta, a tooty ta-ta!

Thumbs up, Elbows back, Knees together, Feet apart, Bottoms up, Head back, Tongue out

A tooty-ta, a tooty-ta, a tooty ta-ta!
A tooty-ta, a tooty-ta, a tooty ta-ta! 

Admissions Fridays: Your Ticket To Getting To Know TNCS!

Our very own Robin Munro, TNCS Admissions Director

Our very own Robin Munro, TNCS Admissions Director

Friday, April 25th, marked the first-ever Admissions Friday event at The New Century School, and what a success it was! The brainchild of Admissions Director Robin Munro, this weekly event is designed to give prospective families a taste of TNCS and to give currently enrolled families the chance to drop by and hang out. Ms. Munro says she came up with this idea to be able to respond to more families more quickly and hopes to make it a standing happening. Families interested in the school naturally have lots of questions; Admissions Fridays not only get those questions answered in a timely fashion, but also show you the real deal—this is what TNCS looks like and how it operates in real time.

The inaugural event was well attended by parents (as well as a couple of prospective students!) curious about TNCS’s inner workings. The morning began informally with attendees gathering in the Multipurpose Room for coffee and a nosh prepared by Chef Emma. (Her lemon poppyseed cake was divine!) Prospective parents were looking at a range of enrollment levels from nursery-age, to preschool-age, right up to elementary-age, which Ms. Munro was particularly glad to see. Although TNCS started as a preschool, it has grown up right alongside its original student body and is thriving as it broadens its scope to encompass school-age children. After a chat to get acquainted and a preliminary Q&A, Ms. Munro escorted the group around the school, giving everyone a chance to see each program in action and all of the other special aspects of TNCS that set it apart.

Chef Emma baked lemon poppyseed cake and provided bagels courtesy of Cunningham's Cafe and Bakery. The butter rosettes were Chef's own special flourish!

Chef Emma baked lemon poppyseed cake and provided bagels courtesy of Cunningham’s Cafe and Bakery. The butter rosettes were Chef’s own special flourish!

Refreshing citrus and strong coffee---the perfect combo! Cream is courtesy of Trickling Springs dairy farm.

Refreshing citrus and strong coffee—the perfect combo! Cream was courtesy of Trickling Springs dairy farm.

TNCS offers three divisions: pre-primary (ages 2–3), primary (ages 3–5), and elementary (ages 6 and up). A fourth division in the form of a middle school will debut in the Fall of 2016 for grades 6–8. Extended care and before care are also available. Across all programs, emphases include small classes, language learning, and independent (but guided) academic exploration. Though all share common guiding principles, each program also boasts a unique identity. The pre-primary is complete immersion in either Mandarin Chinese or Spanish, the primary is Montessori, and the elementary is progressive and technology- and inquiry-based. This is, of course, a very cursory description of program highlights. Observing these classes in action tells the complete story, and they really are wondrous sights to behold. The mix of ages all helping one another, the classroom harmony, the freedom-within-limits to choose a topic of exploration . . . these are very integral to TNCS and are best appreciated firsthand.

Then there are the features that put the finishing touches on this one-of-a-kind school—the Kitchen Garden Tuck Shop, the music and art programs, and The Lingo Leap. These are, again, aspects of TNCS that deserve to be appreciated in person, but, in brief, TNCS students have the option of a daily locally sourced lunch of the freshest, best ingredients around (if not from the school greenhouse itself); they get formal instruction in art and music by instructors Jenny Raccuglia and Martellies Warren; and they have gym class with Gerstung equipment and the Imagination Playground!

With so much exciting  information to absorb, Ms. Munro recognized that families might prefer to mull details over later and gave each attendee a comprehensive packet to take home. Prospective families enjoyed getting to know TNCS, while currently enrolled families relished the chance to be there taking part.

So if you are exploring options for where to educate your child(ren), register for an Admissions Friday now through June 6th. Figuring out where your child will be enabled to flourish is no small decision. TNCS openly welcomes your observation, your questions, and you.


See What’s Jumping at The Lingo Leap!

LEAP! (They spell "leap"!)

LEAP! (They spell “leap”!)

Since The Lingo Leap‘s 2012 launch, the more-than-just-a-kiddie gym has made some significant changes and refinements. Now under the supervision of The New Century School‘s Sharon DaCosta, TLL is becoming the go-to studio for the 2- to 10-year-old set. TLL is unique in integrating movement with learning as well as learning about movement. Neuronal synapses fire more readily to juice up the brain when the rest of the body is also active. This is one reason why treadmill desks are catching on for adults—they get to move around instead of being sedentary at work and reap all of the exercise-associated benefits, but they also find that they think better and are more productive. The mind–body connection isn’t just for yogis and yoginis. (For more on the related science, check out an older post on TLL: Exercising that Mind–Body Connection.)

The Lingo Leap coordinator, Sharon DaCosta

The Lingo Leap coordinator, Sharon DaCosta

Says Ms. DaCosta, “Our goal is to create classes that no other aftercare or other facility offers. So, we do things like language immersion movement classes to expose kids to another language.” Not all classes are immersion or language related, however. Drama, Ballet, Hip-hop, Together with Tots, and Team-building classes, for example, have also attracted a solid following. The roster remains flexible; classes are offered based on market demands. Specialty classes like French Yoga, which isn’t currently on the schedule, might return if the interest is there. Ms. DaCosta conducts surveys and does other marketing outreach to find out just what parents want to see available.

Aftercare Director (TNCS) and Events Manager (TLL), Emily Feinberg.

Aftercare Director (TNCS) and Events Manager (TLL), Emily Feinberg.

Finding the right target market is one of her primary means to keep TLL thriving. “Getting the word out there,”  says Ms. DaCosta, whose background is in marketing, “is extremely important. We have such fantastic offerings, but many community parents still aren’t aware.” Currently, TLL draws heavily from the TNCS aftercare student body, but Ms. DaCosta sees TLL as having a much broader reach and providing a much-needed service to the larger Baltimore community. Working in collaboration with Emily Feinberg, TNCS Aftercare Director and TLL Events Manager, the two have developed a very special set of services. “There’s a lot of overlap between our roles,” says Ms. Feinberg, “but basically I try to integrate TNCS’s aftercare program with TLL to give parents lots of intriguing aftercare options.” In other words, students can spend some of their after-school hours in one of TLL’s specialty classes. TNCS and TLL are closely affiliated but function as separate entities.

Finding great instructors is another one of Ms. DaCosta’s tasks in her official capacity as Activity Coordinator. She searches extensively to find just the right fit, and the instructors she has brought on board have elevated the classes to new levels of excitement and energy. Drama instructor Rebecca Kenton is one, and is new to TLL this year. She is an experienced drama teacher committed to learning, creativity, and curiosity. “I think of my teaching career as an adventure,” she says. “Over the past 16 years, I have taught Drama to children ranging in age from 5–18 with the Pumpkin Theatre, Drama Learning Center, The Painting Workshop, and Friends School of Baltimore.” TLL is thrilled to welcome someone with such chops! Young performers in her class will develop their confidence and concentration through a range of improvisational and story-telling exercises. “I’m looking forward to discovering drama with the tiny (yet tenacious) thespians of [TLL] and meeting all of you,” she says. Her Discovering Drama class, which began January 31st and meets at 3:30 for 2- and 3-year-olds and at 4:15 for 4- to 6-year-olds, will conclude with an informal showcase on Friday, April 4th.

Cuban native Danay Rodriguez is another high-caliber instructor, already familiar to TLL and about to assume expanded duties overlapping with TNCS. She teaches the very popular Together with Tots class on Saturday mornings and is now additionally going to be in charge of the overall Spanish Creative Movement program. A one-time Clinical Psychologist and counselor as well as a Developmental Psychology teacher at The University of Havana, Señorita Rodriquez will lead the 2- and 3-year-old and the 4- to 6-year-old groups in this immersion-style introduction to movement class.

Balancing and walking on the beam hones coordination.

Balancing and walking on the beam hones coordination.

Look---I made a car that actually moves!

Look—I made a car that actually moves!

The current full schedule and class description can be found on TLL’s website. But exciting extracurricular movement classes aren’t all that TLL has to offer. During the schoolday, it functions as TNCS’s gymnasium and boasts such features as authentic Gerstung equipment, which “[encourages] children to use their own innate curiosity to stimulate movement,” and the Imagination Playground, a “play system that encourages unstructured, child-directed ‘free play.’” (Read more about the super-awesome Imagination Playground here.) Ms. DaCosta says that despite recent changes, TLL has stayed true to its original mission of integrating movement and learning and that this philosophy is something that everyone (TLL and TNCS staff) has a hand in implementing. “Mr. Gerstung himself actually came to TLL and trained all of us in August on how to use his specially designed equipment,” she says. “We know the purpose of each piece of equipment and what goals we can accomplish with each one.” Pre-primary and primary students have gym classes with their regular-class assistant teachers, who instruct them in Spanish or Mandarin. Elementary students have a more targeted physical education class taught by kids’ strength and agility trainer Emily Socolinsky.

TLL is also fast becoming the place to throw a kid’s birthday party—just ask your kids. Events Manager Emily Feinberg is available to help you plan your event and clearly enjoys her job. She knows kids’ parties! Catering is available, as needed, as well as decorations, balloons, face painting—you name it. Some perks come with your party package, like the ever-popular Moon Bounce; others are priced accordingly. The best thing about hosting a party at TLL from a parent’s perspective (besides, of course, extremely happy kids), is that your party is tailored exactly to your needs. If you want to handle all the details, you may. If you prefer to let TLL do the work, so be it. Or, you can opt to take on what aspects you want and let TLL manage the others. It’s a very civilized form of events planning!

Date Nights at TLL are another offering that have really caught on and are all-around brilliant. Drop the kids off at TLL at 5:30 pm (or later) and have a night out on the town, utterly guilt-free! Parents get some probably much-needed “we time,” while the kids are having an equally great time. They get to socialize with other kids, participate in group games, eat a nutritious dinner, and put the long schoolweek behind them in a melée of play. It’s the kids’ version of TGIF! New this year, hours are extended to 9 pm, to give parents more choices for their evening out. Date Nights occur on a standing schedule, monthly, every third Friday. Sign up in advance here!

Camps are another great service TLL provides. Whether it’s an extended school vacation that parents need coverage for, or a single school holiday, TLL offers an enriching, lively experience for kids. It’s the perfect balance—kids get a break from school, but they don’t have to take a break from movement and learning! Sign up for Spring Break camp here.

Finally, Ms. DaCosta is working with Sanctuary Bodyworks to develop parallel programs in which parents can go work out at the boutique studio upstairs from TLL, while kids are attending movement classes downstairs. The two facilities have offered Salsa Nights so far, for adults (not necessarily couples nor even pairs) to dance (or learn to) and enjoy hors d’oeuvres and wine (olé!), while the kids are happily occupied in their own Friday night fun. Ms. DaCosta says she goes to extreme lengths to get the word out about such events and hopes for increased participation. “I want parents to know how much I want to please everybody. I sit here and think and think and think,” she says, “about how to make TLL the best place to bring their kids.”

Her hard work is bearing fruit; TLL is exciting, engaging, and fun! So take the leap—find out for yourself all that this special kids’ activity realm has to offer!

Spaceship Club Elevates Aftercare at TNCS!

One of the perhaps unfortunate developments in modern society is that school lets out midafternoon, but the workday continues, making aftercare an essential service for many families. Isn’t it nice to know that at The New Century School, aftercare is just as enriching an experience as the rest of the schoolday?

Enter Emily Feinberg, Aftercare Coordinator, who strives to make sure that kids are engaged and happy and using the gap time between school and home in worthwhile ways by creating “clubs” that appeal to individual student predilections. Clubs range from music themed to math, drama, and world culture. Prior to the beginning of the 2013–2014 school year, Ms. Feinberg approached Aftercare Instructor Ron Shalom and asked him to suggest an idea for a club. That was no problem, says Mr. Shalom, who has spent lots of time with TNCS students and has developed a good feel for what appeals to them. He’s not particularly a fan of science fiction himself, but says that kids are forever asking him about all things Outer Space. And so, to give the people what they want, Spaceship Club was, er, launched!

Mr. Shalom is just the kind of well-rounded person TNCS likes to have around. The Maryland native joined TNCS staff on moving to Baltimore in March 2013. Prior to that, he studied linguistics and music at Oberlin College and Conservatory. In addition to teaching, Mr. Shalom is a talented composer and songwriter and plays the piano, double bass, and guitar. He also speaks Spanish and Hebrew. (Music, art, languages—a Renaissance Man, indeed!) Naturally, he brings a lot of his innate creativity to aftercare.

This spaceship workshop is a hive of activity on Mission Days.

This spaceship workshop is a hive of activity on Mission Days.

So, enough orbiting around the subject—what is Spaceship Club? “The premise behind the club,” says Mr. Shalom, “is that all of the students are aliens from Planet Ickydoo, and they’ve come to Planet Earth to explore.” Basically, Spaceship Club is an imaginative new world where kids create, pretend, and participate in a collective narrative. It’s really quite special. But it’s also one of those amazing organic things that you really have to witness to fully appreciate (see video below). A story underpins the hour-long club, and this story unfolds a new way each and every time the kids meet because they are spinning the narrative as they go.

The interactive story-telling aspect alone is quite inspiring to see, but it’s not the only way kids tap into their creativity in Spaceship Club. They also actually build spaceships! The skills they cultivate in the process are limitless—engineering, math, physics . . . even communication technology! Then there’s the astronomy and geography that also come into play. Wait—also anthropology, sociology, and zoology!

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s back up and start at the beginning (no, not the Big Bang, more like 4:00 on a Friday afternoon). Between 11 and 13 kids assemble in the day’s designated space (sometimes The Lingo Leap, sometimes outside, sometimes a classroom), and the space is instantly transformed into Planet Ickydoo, our Spaceship Club participants’ home and headquarters. The Ickydooians immediately commence repairs on or, if necessary, new construction of their spaceships to be ready for the day’s mission to Earth. The purpose of these missions is data collection. Ickydooians observe, take notes, and report back on earthly goings-on, such as climate, inhabitants (animal and human), topography, and vegetation. Endless subnarratives are possible during these missions, and the kids take full advantage! They adopt special names, for example, or discover Dr. Seussian fruits, or (humanely) trap and carry back snakes to headquarters for more intensive testing and observation.

Some days, work on the spaceship necessarily occupies most of the club. After the holidays, in fact, some crafts were in fairly bad shape. Mr. Shalom provides large cardboard boxes for the spaceships’ outer casing and an assortment of other found/recycled materials (tubes, smaller boxes of all shapes and sizes, twine, duct tape) to trick out each one. The kids team up and construct their spaceships according to their specializations. “The Snake Company,” for example, is an elaborate system of working parts piloted by two lower elementary students with a shared affinity for reptiles. Although the kids usually have the mechanics under control, Mr. Shalom patiently navigates the jumble of spare parts, assisting with more complex repairs and recommending alternative ways to approach problems. It’s obvious that he also relishes the kids’ curiosity and capacity for innovation, praising any particularly useful adaptations he sees them making. (Here and there, he may have to interject an admonishment or two to a particularly energetic Ickydooian, but his stated role is something akin to Air-Traffic Controller or Mission Control.)

With the ever-changing variety of source materials at their disposal, the students have branched out into making other implements that might come in handy on missions. You never know when you might need your suit of armor on Earth, for instance, and there’s no upper limit on the variety of transmitters and scanners that might serve. “When pointed at an unfamiliar object, the scanners can tell you everything you need to know about that object,” says Mr. Shalom. One key piece of equipment is the ansible, a sort of transponder “[they] made out of an old internet modem and a busted RCA cable,” says Mr. Shalom. Any Ursula K.Le Guin fans will know just what this “superluminal communication” device is.

About midway through the hour, the activity ramps up. Mr. Shalom announces the Liftoff schedule and keeps Ickydooians informed with a countdown so they’ll be sure to be “spaceworthy” in time. Liftoff is the high point of the club. Kids scramble into their boxes–oops, ships—and really get into the pretend play. Sounds, sights, and dialogue all enhance the performance as the Ickydooians hurtle toward Earth. Mr. Shalom talks them through each phase of breeching another planet’s successive “-spheres,” lending a little drama to the scene, and then reestablishes a line of communication with each Ickydoo Spacepod.

On landing, the little space travelers engage in the aforementioned scientific study of the strange, new planet and are continuously reminded by Mr. Shalom to remember to gather plenty of “space algae” for the necessary fuel to return to Ickydoo. All the while, they are garnering insight into other worlds, cultures, and beings and how to live in peace and harmony among them in our shared universe. And so we can add philanthropy to the growing list of important attributes that Spaceship Club cultivates. Working parents, rest easy. Aftercare kids are having an out-of this-world learning experience!

There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He’d like to come and meet us
But he thinks he’d blow our minds
There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He’s told us not to blow it
Cause he knows it’s all worthwhile
He told me:
Let the children lose it
Let the children use it
Let all the children boogie

—Ziggy Stardust

Elementary Strength Training

Among the many great things about The New Century School is its equal emphasis on The Arts and Humanities with other more scientific subjects—TNCS calls them “specials.” This focus may be a factor in many TNCS families’ decisions to send their children to TNCS instead of public school, where the utility of these subjects seems to be eternally up for debate.

This year, TNCS added a new element to the array of specials: strength training during physical education/movement classes. Emily Socolinsky joined TNCS staff this year to teach phys ed to the two elementary classes. Before we meet Mrs. Socolinsky, let’s clarify what we mean by “strength training” in this context. Although weight-lifting is certainly a means of strength training, it certainly isn’t the only way to get stronger or more fit. Everything from climbing trees to participating in gymnastics to doing squats and sit-ups helps to condition the muscles and build strength. In her recent article in Baltimore’s Child, Mrs. Socolinsky writes that strength training (or resistance training) is a specialized method of physical conditioning . . . [that] is not only safe but beneficial for children to participate in.” And she should know. She is a certified Starting Strength coach with lots of research into the subject under her belt. The most current findings show that “incorporating strength training into a child’s fitness program can increase that child’s bone density, decrease his or her risk of incurring sports-related injury, and improve his or her muscular strength and endurance, body composition, and self-confidence.”


Mrs. Socolinsky owns 5x3 Studio, in Fell's POint, and is also the newest member of TNCS's elementary staff.

Pictured here in our very own TLL, Mrs. Socolinsky owns Fivex3 Training, in Harbor East.

Mrs. Socolinsky also owns her own fitness studio, Fivex3 Training, in Harbor East, in addition to being a Precision Nutrition Level One Coach. Despite all of her credentials, she came to fitness training in sort of a roundabout way. With ballet training starting at age 7, she participated in the TWIGS program at Baltimore School for the Arts, went on to major in dance at UMBC, did an internship in New York City in Production Administration, stayed on at The Juilliard School as a wardrobe supervisor, and then returned to Baltimore (where she grew up) to oversee wardrobe at Center Stage. She switched gears in adulthood, obtaining a Master’s in education to teach 5th grade in Baltimore City schools and later to become school director of Kinetics Dance Theater School of Contemporary Dance. Then, a debilitating back injury prompted her to begin strength training, and suddenly a whole new world opened up. In 2011, she opened Fivex3 (which is training speak for 5 reps times 3 sets), where she says she was able to “integrate all of [her] experience—dance, education, and running a business.” She explains that although she was at first nervous to open a gym, she soon realized that fitness and dancing go hand in hand. She knew how to instruct people to move correctly from her dance experience, so once they have developed sufficient body and movement awareness, she just adds resistance. At Fivex3, she instructs 6–8 participants at a time in a hybrid of group classes and personal training.

Strength Training at TNCS

Back to TLL, what she does with TNCS elementary kids is the same basic training class she teaches at Fivex3, but modified for 6–9- year-olds. Exercise for kids this age should primarily be fun, says Mrs. Socolinsky. She strives to make sure they are engaged and enthusiastic about movement class, which has clear benefits for lifelong physical health, not the least of which is habituating kids to regular, intentioned movement. “Kids are more sedentary than they used to be,” says Mrs. Socolinsky, “this is a chance for them to get some exercise as well as an outlet for those kids who don’t like sports.”

This month was her first full month at TNCS, and she says she has spent it priming the kids for what’s to come. Getting to know each other as well as class expectations was important, she says, before moving into more structured classes. Once she had a good idea of what each of the two classes needed, she nailed down her approach and the gamut of activities for each one. The older elementary children (third-graders) needed some work in team-building as is developmentally typical for the age group, so their class might involve working in pairs or in a big circle. She wants them to always be moving yet simultaneously be aware of what team- and classmates are doing so they are “successful in their own right and as a group.” She says this teamwork could even filter back into the classroom proper, and they may start to better understand this concept of working with and helping one another.

A typical movement class for the older elementary class first starts with a dynamic warm-up that she likens to a combination of yoga and pilates core exercises (e.g., planks, “dead bugs,” “cat/cows,” and “bird dog”). Next, the students move through “Fitness (or Power) Circuits” in pairs or in teams in which they hone gross motor skills as well as develop spatial awareness. These circuits comprise 45-second exercises such as squats, crawling through hula hoops, chest presses with a medicine ball, and jumping over cones or broad jumping. Through such circuits, Mrs. Socolinsky hits a number of Physical Education Standards for the age group, such as stability, throwing and catching, and even cooperation. Once correct movement is established, she will bring the Gerstung equipment into the rotation.

For the younger elementary class (first- and second-graders), class is markedly different. Mrs. Socolinsky says she teaches this one in a “more creative movement–centered way, using songs that give guidance.” She also incorporates a lot of imagery for this age-group. Warm-up here might consist of “making a pizza,” for example, in which the kids sit around a large “table” and stretch across it to prepare the pizza, miming rolling out the dough, smoothing on the sauce, and adding toppings. Imagination playground is also a component of this class, in which basic spatial awareness is an important concept to grasp. Each 40-minute class ends with a cool-down.

This gym class certainly sounds more fun than the tedious rounds of calisthenics (or worse, dodge ball) many of us grew up on. Who remembers jogging that mile around the track year after year to demonstrate . . . what, exactly? Anyway, these movement classes are designed to engage and be enjoyed, true, but Mrs. Socolinksky is nonetheless quite serious about them: “There’s no such word as ‘can’t’ in my gym!” she says ;)!